James J. McNamara was a really good friend. We I met when I was running the Village Of Rosendale Police Force in 1974. Years later he was a Sergeant on the NYPD when shot to death leaving a young wife and a young son, a brother, a sister and a legion of pals and admirers.
Jimmy He is buried in his boyhood home in Rosendale in the churchyard which was one of our nightly patrol checkpoints. A place which if the radio was quiet we’d stop, pour ourselves a cup of coffee out of the thermos in the console and with the frosty autumn night air blowing through the open car doors , chat. And chat and chat about the future.
So missing him I stop at the churchyard of an evening. Not every week or every month but I stop, walk to his grave and continue one of those long ago conversations. Although a few weeks ago I went by in daylight in order to put an American Flag down on his grave, one of the thousands my American Legion Post places each May. Jimmy wasn’t a veteran of the military but no man in a uniform could give more and I include him in on that.
This year however someone has been there before with a flag and also a card I left undisturbed; unread. His wife or son I would guess or maybe his brother whose house is only a few hundred yards off.
I wept, “I can’t believe it’s been ten years Jimmy” I told him and then recoiled with shock when I re-read in daylight the dates carved deeply into the stone – “God help me in three months it will have been twenty.”
And that’s the way age and time is. The older you get and the more friends and family who leave you behind, who rush on ahead of you home, the more years are quicksilver, slipping through your fingers and falling to the ground, disappear into the earth.
But then I remembered an old legend and took bittersweet satisfaction in that approaching anniversery. Because if your Irish you believe that you repose for the first twenty years of your death in a timeless, quiet, very green and peaceful sleep just under the earth. Waiting, waiting, waiting along with souls surrounding you in the ground for the last day and your resurrection.
But you also believe that your rest is interrupted by the singing of Irish fairies in the tinkle of tiny porcelain bells as exactly twenty years from the day of your death St Bridget appears not far off and walks over to your grave. And if you were upright and brave in life she smiles and whispers the ancient summons of Saint Columba.
I Send You News, Stag Blowing, Winter Flooding, Summer Gone
And you vanish from where you had been resting . Because dressed in bright green, in an iron helmet and sword, buckled and armored your spirit has risen to join other tall laughing Irish warriors streaming out from heaven’s postern gate in order to fight beneath the golden banners of the angels in their long war, long war against the Prince Of Darkness. Join those special children of God he created to fight open and keep open the way for the day of Christ’s return.
Until he does and time itself ends.
They also say, although it may be fancy, that wherever Saint Bridget’s slipper has rested next to your grave, shamrocks grow.
And so I’m suddenly so very, very happy for you Jimmy. Because you’ve now almost completed those twenty years and I’m looking forward to seeing those shamrocks and imagining you alongside those of your proud race in the clash of axe and shield, fighting for the return of your Lord and savior. As your bright and proud spirit was bred to do.
As I hope mine is someday too – my sorely missed, and much loved friend.